Monday, November 9, 2009

School Parent Communication

Since some readers are probably visiting from the Moms' 30-Minute Blog Challenge, I should probably start by explaining a bit. Those of you with children old enough to be in school may have a pretty good idea of how your child's day at school goes because they will tell you about it. Some may not tell you when you ask, "How was your day?" but if you listen long enough they will tell you that they played with so-and-so at recess, they didn't like the spelling test, and their friend got in trouble for passing notes, or whatever. This is typical child-parent sharing of information. For moms of atypical (special needs) children, this would be a dream come true. Many special needs children are non-verbal. For others the effort to carry on a conversation is so great that they may share only a few broad strokes of their day and the details are left to the imagination (of the parent...).

My daughter just started Kindergarten, and although she is very verbal (non-stop sometimes) her conversation skills are not typical. Between pragmatic speech delays and social skill delays my idea of how her days at school were going was very vague. So talk to the teacher, you might suggest. Our Kindergarten classes have 20 students, which means 20 sets of parents who jockey for the teacher's attention. Because of my daughter's support programs at school, we only see the regular classroom teacher at drop-off, which halves our opportunity to ask questions. There's also a resource room teacher that we need to talk to. To complicate things even more, some of the information we need to know is whether or not there were any negative behaviors during the school day and how they were handled. We have learned (the hard way) that such issues should not be discussed when my daughter is present, even over the phone. In short it was very hard to know what was going on at school and how we could work with the teachers and other school staff to support our daughter.

One of our friends suggested using a "communication book" where we could write information for the teachers and they could write information for us. I spent a little bit of time researching things on the Internet and also picked up some ideas from an IEP (Individual Education Plan) workshop that I attended. None of them seemed to fit our exact situation. I wanted to meet the following criteria:

  • Something that would be quick and easy for the school staff to do every day.
  • Something that would give us information on both positive and negative behaviors.
  • Some flexibility in case school staff needed to add important information.
  • Something with a hint of how she was doing in terms of academic work.

Here's what I came up with:
I bought a cheap photo album with a cute girly cover. ($2) - the kind with plastic pages and clear pockets.
I made some slips of paper (some labeled with general classroom and some with resource room) that fit into the photo pockets. These say:
She earned __________ stars today.
She was put on timeout ___________ times because ____________.
She finished all most some of her work today.
Other comments"

To clarify - the stars and timeouts are defined pieces of her behavior support plan. The key is that I'm learning information on how well she did and if any problems came up.

I put in dividers for each day of the week, including Saturday and Sunday. On weekend days I write a brief note about things we did and any behavior issues that occurred at home and how we handled them. Each weekday I make sure the book gets into her backpack and at drop off I try to make sure I see her hand it to a teacher or aide. Each day the teacher or aide fills in the blanks or circles the choices as appropriate. If they choose to do so they can add their own thoughts at the bottom. When I pick my daughter up quite often she hands it directly to me and I flip to that day to see how many stars she earned. I beam at her and say, "WOW, X stars!, that's great sweetie!!". I also silently read about timeouts and can judge from her attitude at the moment about how I might need to proceed with the rest of our day, but I do NOT comment aloud on this piece. It is enough that I am aware of it. If I see any trends developing I will be able to contact the teachers for more information or to address my concerns.

This simple tool has made a huge difference in my confidence. I believe it has been key to keeping my daughter on track behaviorally. I appreciate the school staff's willingness to do this each day.

How do you find out about your child's day at school?

1 comment:

Rieshy said...

I used to be a teacher- I think your idea is great. It's so hard to have a meaningful conversation at the door of the classroom as kids are going in and out and other parents are standing around.


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